First weekend in a new city. Autumn is in the air. There’s a hint of decay; the breeze is an ongoing sigh.

The internet offers me nothing. My brain is blank. Writing is unlike any other art; it demands a subject. You can practice other arts without having anything to say. Not feeling musically creative but want to stay sharp? Play scales. Practice other musician’s songs. Need to brush(ha) up on your painting but you’re uninspired? You can paint a portrait, a basket of fruit or a sunset. Everyday objects are plentiful. Pick anything, draw or paint it mechanically and you can still improve or at least pass the time.

You can take a picture or sculpt or refine any other artistic technique without original content. But you can’t cover other writer’s stories or poems. You can’t write senseless sentences or perform exercises. Practice coincides with performance. You either have something to say or you don’t. You’re either fertile or sterile.

The only way to practice writing without saying anything is to write about having nothing to say, which is tedious and precious. Writing is self indulgent enough when it explores a subject other than itself. So practicing scales on the guitar might be boring but writing strained sentences without a subject is morally and pragmatically questionable.

And there’s no appropriate ending to an exploration of nothing.

I’ve become a creature of the cafe, a saturday morning idler, a tendentious typer living on my laptop. And I’ve adapted to a lack of amenities. Right now I have to shit in public. Rather than bemoan the inconvenience I’m just glad there are clean working toilets I can use. There are worse places to be, like the turd clogged streets of india.

When you start with squalor, every little improvement or luxury brings genuine joy. I was happy to have new carpet in my house. Getting a fridge was like winning the lottery. At first I couldn’t sleep on the floor but after a few restless nights I’m now sleeping soundly. When I get a bed I’ll be in heaven. Much of our suffering stems from what we expect and desire. Freedom isn’t a given, it’s a product of control, of inner strength and discipline. We have an astonishing ability to adjust and achieve equilibrium in a wide range of conditions.

Stoicism combined with gratitude is the key to balance in a vertiginous world. Everything can be taken from you but your resolve.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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